The Rundown: Cubs Splurge in Free Agency, Players Ready to Get Back to Work, White Sox Appear to Have Inside Track on Machado
Stop the presses! The Cubs signed a free agent. The team agreed to terms with relief pitcher Brad Brach on a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2020. It’s not an insignificant signing.
Since 2014, the 32-year-old righty — who was drafted in the 42nd round by the San Diego Padres in 2008, then released in 2013 after three so-so seasons — has earned 28 relief victories. Wins may not be as glamorous as they were when old-schoolers managed front offices, but for a middle reliever like Brach, the W is exceptionally significant. Specifically, it means that when he enters the game with the score tied, which Brach often does, he tends to keep the opposition right where they are.
Even better? The guy averages about 62 appearances per season over that same five year span. It’s quite possible Joe Maddon now has a reliever he will be unable to burn through this summer. Plus, Brach’s durability offers some respite for the rest of the usually-overworked bullpen. A season in the Wrigley bullpen under Maddon is baseball’s equivalent of military boot camp.
Brach has experience as a closer so he can be deployed to close out a game or stifle a rally in potentially game-changing situations. He gets big outs and he rarely gives up home runs. Last year the stingy reliever gave up just one home run, on average, every 16 appearances. The Cubs could have used some of that last season and he will be a welcome addition to the team this summer. My guess is he becomes Papa Joe’s favorite bullpen toy before the calendar turns to May.
Cubs News & Notes
- Are you getting pumped up for the season to start yet? Ian Happ’s excitement is palpable, to say the least.
3 weeks until pitchers and catchers. Can’t wait to be back at Wrigley! Here’s “3-2, 2 outs” Through My Eyes. Prints available at https://t.co/sx8THK8WQI link in my bio #gocubsgo pic.twitter.com/S52T7wXnfU
— Ian Happ (@ihapp_1) January 24, 2019
- Even more pumped up? Both Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow are focused on changing the narratives they earned, fairly or unfairly, last season.
- Bleacher Report graded the offseasons of all 30 MLB teams so far. Right now the Cubs are sitting on a big fat D-.
- Though it’s not a Cubs note, per se, the Dodgers signing of OF A.J. Pollock likely takes them out of the running for either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. That leaves the Cubs, White Sox, and Phillies as the last three teams for the two young all-stars in baseball’s game of free agency musical chairs. Am I missing anybody? Oh yeah, there’s bound to be a mystery team or two.
- If the Cubs sold the naming rights to Wrigley Field, and here’s hoping they do not, the net expenditure for roster upgrades would probably be close to what Brach signed for.
- Ben Zobrist is an all-star on and off the field. What a class act.
- Maddon believes the second-half slump by Willson Contreras was the result of self-induced pressure. The backstop hit just two bucks with only 11 extra-base after the all-star break.
- How did I miss this?
It’s looking more and more like the White Sox are going to sign Machado. The free-agent shortstop allegedly told GM Rick Hahn he’s open to playing third base for the team.
Manager Rick Renteria is certainly optimistic the team will sign Machado.
Since they have cornered the market on middle infielders, the Mets hope to move Jeff McNeil to the outfield this season. That will be the infielder’s sole focus this spring.
As the 2019 season draws closer, the A’s still do not have a deal with a local radio station to broadcast their games. They may be the first MLB team to offer a streaming-only option.
Mariners executives have denied allegations that they have made racist remarks about Latino players and business personnel.
This offseason has proved that a wait-and-see approach to free agency is now the new normal.
The MLBPA believes that the lack of free agency signings is a threat to the game.
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler intends to focus on the fundamentals of the game to generate more wins in 2019.
Tigers 3B/OF Nicholas Castellanos has requested a trade before the start of spring training.
After signing Pollock, the Dodgers are clearly the number one team in the National League.
The rise of young, versatile players is an ominous sign for baseball’s older players.
MLB has reportedly proposed going back to a 15-day disabled list and increasing the time optioned players usually must spend in the minor leagues, moves that would be aimed at reducing the use of relief pitchers and reviving offense.
Frankly I am surprised that I’ve seen so may Theo Epstein detractors in the comments sections of baseball blogs and websites, including here. I’ll take a look at that insanity in my next column.
Yesterday was Jack Brickhouse’s birthday. I was lucky enough to spend my adolescence listening to Brickhouse call games on WGN. Did you know he was the announcer when Willie Mays made “The Catch?” Here’s a few “Hey, Heys” for you.
A little “Hey! Hey!” to celebrate Jack Brickhouse’s birthday. pic.twitter.com/vGeDpHS2wu
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 24, 2019
Friday Walk Up Song
1957 by Milo Greene. Cubs fans, meet Milo Greene. I think you’ll like this song. Greene is a quartet, not a person, with three lead singers and sublime harmonies. An interesting note: The band is named after a fictitious booking agent, a persona created to help them get gigs when they first started out. They’d call club owners and venues pretending to be Greene the agent. They decided to keep the name when they signed their record deal. I may call my band Scott Boras now.